Construction has started on Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s new airbase at Semington, near Melksham, after Wiltshire Lord Lieutenant, Sarah Troughton, and High Sheriff, Lady Marland, took part in a ceremonial turf cutting.
The ceremony coincided with the charity’s Airbase Appeal raising over £251,000, meaning that just under £1 million is needed to complete the building and equipping of the new airbase.
Mrs Troughton said: “I was delighted to be part of the ground breaking ceremony for Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s new airbase which marks the next phase in the charity’s history. Wiltshire Air Ambulance has been saving lives for 27 years and this wonderful custom-built airbase will enable the charity to continue its sterling and important work.
“Its central location of Semington means the helicopter can still reach all parts of the county in 11 minutes, as they have been able to from Devizes Police HQ. The charity still needs to raise further funds to finish the project. My grateful thanks go to those who have generously contributed so far, and I would like to encourage further public support for this vital service in our county.”
Rigg Construction (Southern) Limited, based in Bowerhill, Melksham, is the primary contractor for the building of the new airbase, which will bring together the charity’s helicopter, aircrew and charity team. Currently the helicopter and aircrew are based at a hangar at Police Headquarters in Devizes while the charity team is based at offices in Calne.
Construction of the new airbase is expected to take 45 weeks and Wiltshire Air Ambulance is anticipating moving into the new airbase in Spring 2018.
Meanwhile, three more companies have joined the charity’s 100 Club, with each pledging to raise £10,000 for the Airbase Appeal.
At Calne-based Exception EMS, manufacturing associates Diane Benson and Kevin Parks had their heads shaved and have so far raised over £1,000. The company, which is an electronics manufacturer, is planning other fundraising events including a charity ball.
Jenny Goward, HR director at Exception EMS, said: “We have supported Wiltshire Air Ambulance for many years now and our employees chose it as our charity to support this year, so becoming a member of The 100 Club was the next step. Diane and Kevin’s head shave was keenly supported by their colleagues and we are looking forward to organising other fun events.
“The work that Wiltshire Air Ambulance does is incredible and such a necessary emergency service within Wiltshire. The plans for the new airbase are very exciting and to have the team together in one place will have huge benefits.”
At V12 Footwear, which designs and manufactures safety footwear for industries including oil, gas, construction, rail and agriculture, 15 members of staff are planning to walk the 13 miles from their headquarters in Chippenham to the new airbase site in Semington on 26 May - wearing V12 safety boots.
Tom Turner, business development director at V12, said: “Walking in V12 safety boots will really put their comfort to the test! Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a charity that is very close to the hearts of V12 staff for personal reasons, but also because it is a fantastic resource for the county’s residents and visitors.
“We have the greatest respect for every single member of staff from the pilots and paramedics to those managing the operations, fundraising and marketing from the ground. Nobody knows if or when the Wiltshire Air Ambulance might affect their lives, but it is a great comfort to know that they are there and can get to emergencies quickly.
“As well as becoming a member of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance 100 Club we have promised to keep WAA staff booted for a lifetime.”
Amongst their fundraising for Wiltshire Air Ambulance, six staff at Elm Workspace, an office fit out and furniture company, are planning to walk 100km in the Race to the Stones event along The Ridgeway on 14 and 15 July finishing in Avebury.
Ian Powell, commercial director at Elm Workspace, said: “This is the first time we have supported Wiltshire Air Ambulance and we chose to support them because it is an essential service to people living in, working, visiting or travelling through the county.
“We all want to feel we have the best of chances at the worst of times and it is shown time and time again that Wiltshire Air Ambulance can be the difference between life and death in the most crucial minutes of an incident.
“We have joined the charity’s 100 Club as we want to see security for this service and the new base is crucial for the future. A purpose-built facility will aid the efficiency of the service providing more space for the most up to date equipment and training.”
Cheryl Johnson, head of Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s Airbase Appeal, said: “The fundraising being undertaken by Exception EMS, V12 Footwear and Elm Workspace for our Airbase Appeal is inspiring and we’d like to thank them for joining The 100 Club.
“The funds they raise will go towards completing the building and equipping of our new airbase, which will enable us to provide our essential helicopter emergency medical service for many years to come.
“Our 100 Club members are undertaking different ways of fundraising for our Airbase Appeal and we’d love to hear from businesses who are interested in coming on board and helping us secure a better future for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
“Businesses who join will receive exclusive benefits including recognition on a ‘roll of honour’ at the new airbase.”